The Rockets have a full complement of talented wrestlers heading into postseason competition
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — The Spencer/Columbus Catholic wrestling team will begin its postseason run Saturday at the Cloverbelt Conference Tournament in Cadott and again has lofty expectations for the road ahead.
The Rockets are looking for their first conference tournament wrestling title since 1999, when Spencer won the Marawood tournament, and as the WIAA postseason progresses, they have their sights set on equaling or surpassing last year’s total of three state tournament qualifiers.
Eleven of the 13 Spencer/Columbus wrestlers have winning records, and this year’s roster returns three of last year’s Cloverbelt individual champions and three state tournament qualifiers.
“We are fortunate to have some quality kids from top to bottom,” Spencer/Columbus coach Jake Zschernitz said. “We had a slow start to the season, dealing with some injuries and guys not quite at the right weights due to the long football season. We are also giving up a few forfeits, but the kids are making up for that.
“There are two reasons for the success we’ve been having: the kids themselves and my assistant coaches.”
Logan Zschernitz (29-5 at 285 pounds), Hunter Luepke (30-4 at 195), Tim Bauer (27-7 at 138), and Austin Post (21-7 at 132) are all ranked in the top 11 in their weight classes in the most recent wiwrestling.com state poll.
Luepke and Bauer were among the three returning state qualifiers, along with 120-pounder Bryce Shaw (120), and Luepke, Hunter Hildebrandt (13-10 at 160), and Nate Neumann (24-10 at 152) were conference champions a year ago.
“We have a great group of athletes,” Jake Zschernitz said. “Some have been wrestling since they were in our youth program, so the experience they have to go along with their athleticism is really a big part of our success. We also have guys that are fairly new to wrestling. They first started wrestling in junior high or in high school. All of these kids work hard every day to get better, which is the goal.”
Logan is the son of Jake Zschernitz’s brother Luke, who was a three-time Marawood Conference champion from 1995-97.
“Logan just continues to get better and better every time he wrestles,” Jake Zschernitz said. “He is very quick and athletic for his size. Not only is he a very smart kid in the classroom, he is just as smart on the mat. He learns something every time he’s out there. He works hard and has very good practice partners to push him, which has helped him beat several older and higher ranked kids in all three divisions.”
The success of the Rockets this season is also a credit to the entire coaching staff, Jake Zschernitz said. Jeremy Vogel, the Spencer Junior High coach, as well as assistants Jared Klimmer, a three-time state qualifier for Spencer and Stratford; former Marshfield standout Jared Krasselt; and Loyal grad and former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point wrestler Jamie Schultz made Zschernitz’s job easier, he said.
“The reason these kids are getting better and better, along with their hard work, is the assistant coaches I have here,” Jake Zschernitz said. “These guys are truly a huge part of our success. These two guys (Klimmer and Krasselt) make my job easy and have helped make us successful. They’re the ones on the mat drilling moves and teaching the technique, which they’re very good at.”
Spencer/Columbus wrestling postseason schedule
Feb. 6 Cloverbelt Conference Tournament at Cadott
Feb. 13 WIAA Division 2 regional at Neillsville
*Feb. 16 WIAA Division 2 team sectional at Melrose-Mindoro
*Feb. 20 WIAA Division 2 individual sectional at Osceola
*Feb. 25-27 WIAA State Individual Tournament at Madison
*March 4-5 WIAA State Team Tournament at Madison